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Butler: With van Gaal unveiled, the swagger returns to United

Noel Butler
7/18/2014 5:42:08 PM
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The carefully orchestrated build-up to Thursday's official unveiling of Louis van Gaal kicked off in earnest on Monday with the news that Manchester United had signed a 10-year apparel deal with Adidas worth a guaranteed minimum of 750 million pounds (roughly about $1.35 billion.) Mind-boggling.

More than a mere jersey deal, “a global technical sponsorship and dual-branded licensing deal” was how it was described in a brief statement that was published on the club's website at 1pm Monday afternoon. 

Lunch time in Manchester, but make that 8am in New York City.

Since the club began trading on the NYSE in August 2012, it is mandatory practice that, for any announcement which could affect the share price, it is made outside of trading hours. Only 10 per cent of the share capital is listed on the NYSE. The Glazer family privately holds the remaining 90 per cent.

Barcelona likes to claim it is more than a club and the same holds true for Manchester United PLC (Public Limited Company.)  As van Gaal set about steering the Netherlands to a third-place finish in Brazil, his new club were announcing they had completely sold out their season ticket allocation for next season- all 55,000 of them.

This was the earliest in the summer that Manchester United has sold out of season tickets since Old Trafford was expanded to its current capacity of 76,000 ahead of the 2005-2006 season. In recent seasons, the club has had difficulty selling the entire allocation.

Van Gaal's appointment would certainly have been an influencing factor and it makes you wonder how many Old Trafford season tickets were purchased in the immediate aftermath of the Netherlands destroying Spain 5-1 back on June 13..  

The 62-year old Dutchman began his coaching career back in 1991 with legendary Dutch club Ajax, where he won his only Champions League trophy during the 1994-1995 season, when he also steered Ajax to a domestic league glory during an unbeaten season.

Going on to win domestic titles with both Barcelona and Bayern Munich, the closest he came to winning a second European crown was with Bayern ,when they lost in the 2010 final to Jose Mourinho's Inter Milan. 

Van Gaal immediately restores a winner's mentality and image to a club that was without peer through the Ferguson years - when the Knight of the Realm amassed 38 trophies, including 13 BPL titles, in his quarter of a century at the helm.

No one will need reminding of how painful Manchester United's season was under David Moyes last term.  In Moyes's defence, it was not ever going to be easy for whomever followed Ferguson. Still, call it the most expensive "gap year" in United's illustrious history.

Bereft this season of Champions League football, all the associated pressures and inherent demands that it brings with it will work in Van Gaal's favour. If for nothing else, it allows him to focus primarily on returning Manchester United to the BPL summit.

Then, you can look to the examples set by two of the Dutchman's previous clubs, Bayern and Barcelona, both of whom sat on the Champions League sidelines for a season. Shortly after their respective returns, both have gone on to dominate the European stage.

Where Moyes talked of trying to win the League Cup ahead of a semi-final showdown with Sunderland and where some clubs target Champions League football, at his unveiling, van Gaal was unequivocal in his response to whether he could immediately restore the club to its former glories.

"The challenge is always to come first.  Not fourth."

The "Iron Tulip," as van Gaal is nicknamed for the so-termed autocratic way he manages, was astute enough yesterday to recognize the commercial demands and the business of Manchester United.

As the red and blue halves of Manchester look to continue their three-year duopoly of the BPL title, they are also fierce competitors in the global commercial market.

It's not a coincidence that, on the day van Gaal was appointed, Manchester City announced they had signed the Japanese car giant Nissan as their first global partner of the City Football Group.

CFG is the holding company which oversees the commercial affairs of the football clubs now under the control of Sheikh Mansour.  Since purchasing City in 2008, Mansour has added New York City FC, Melbourne City and a 20 per cent holding in Japanese club YF Marinos to his expanding portfolio of football clubs.

Intriguingly, with Manchester Cit up before the UEFA Financial Fair Play panel where they were fined $90 million and had their Champions League squad for the upcoming season trimmed to 21 players down from 23, Nissan is the new car partner of the UEFA Champions League.

In the continual search for overseas revenue, barely 24-hours into the job Van Gaal announced his squad for United's highly lucrative pre-season tour of the US.

Having jetted out to Los Angeles earlier on Friday, they will play their first game against the Galaxy at the Rose Bowl next Wednesday, before taking part in the International Champions Cup. Paired in a group with Real Madrid, Inter and Roma, the final takes place in Miami August 4th. Manchester United's potential opponents that day could be their noisy neighbour.

Whether or not the club goes on to lift their first trophy under van Gaal in the home state of the Glazer family, the Dutchman is already a winner in their eyes.

Since Manchester United announced van Gaal's appointment on May 19, the share price for MANU is up over 15 per cent, and now sits within a nickel of a 52-week high. 

David who?

Noel Butler

Noel Butler


Noel Butler is an analyst for TSN's soccer coverage and his blog can be read on TSN.ca. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/TheSoccerNoel and listen to his radio program oranges@halftime on TSN Radio 690 Montreal.

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